A coalition of First Nations from northeastern Alberta is up against the likes of Shell and Suncor for a contract to build and operate the province’s first large-scale carbon capture and storage facility.
Bids to run the multi-billion-dollar regional CCS facility northeast of Edmonton were due the first of February, and the winner will be selected next month, reports CBC News.
The facility will be built in the province’s industrial heartland, a 582-square-kilometre swath of fossil, fertilizer, and petrochemical industry which Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association (AHIA) celebrates as “Canada’s largest hydrocarbon processing region.”
Chief Greg Desjarlais of the Frog Lake First Nation, located about 200 kilometres east of Edmonton, cited environmental stewardship, followed by economic benefits, as the reasons behind his community’s decision to join with Cold Lake First Nation and Kehewin Cree Nation in bidding for the project.
“We have to leave Mother Earth in a state where our kids and grandkids can flourish and have fresh water and breathe fresh air. So I think that’s the big sales pitch that we need to look at. And secondly, is economic reconciliation with the First Nations,” Desjarlais told CBC.
Acknowledging that the communities are likely to be underdogs in the competition, he added that should the coalition lose out to the oil majors, it will be open to working with the winners—with some strong caveats.
The first condition is that merely talking about job opportunities isn’t going to cut it, Desjarlais said. “This is our traditional territory and we’re looking for prosperity, revenue sharing, and of course, an ownership in the project.”
CBC notes that project bidders will be judged on how their proposals stand to benefit Indigenous communities, alongside criteria for business risk and project design. “Major project participation” is cited as a community benefit, alongside skills training, employment, business development, community investment, and private sector partnerships.
While carbon capture proponents praise the technology as a means to reduce the carbon footprint of industries that are difficult to decarbonize, critics says investment credits like those being offered by the Alberta government for the Industrial Heartland project “would be better spent” on renewable or other low-carbon forms of energy, writes CBC.
They also warn that carbon capture facilities “could create perverse incentives, which could make it more difficult for the world to transition away from fossil fuels.”
While carbon capture projects are frequently touted, and used, to extract yet more crude in a process known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR), the Industrial Heartland project will reportedly not be involved in EOR.
In addition to the Industrial Heartland bid, the coalition is also in early talks with tar sands/oil sands companies seeking to build a carbon capture facility in the Cold Lake region. The plant would be the endpoint for CO2 captured from Fort McMurray and shipped north by pipeline.
The companies involved say they’re aiming to sequester 8.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030.
In 2019, the tar sands/oil sands produced about 83 million tonnes of emissions, CBC writes, citing Environment and Climate Change Canada figures. That total represented a 26% increase between 2000 and 2019.